Families who talk together, learn together. 

What is Family Talk?

You may have seen posters around the school district and city encouraging you to Talk, Learn, Listen. Somerville Public Schools recently launched a campaign called Family Talk. The Family Talk campaign distills current research into easy-to-use techniques any family can adopt to promote conversation. New research shows that back and forth conversation directly impacts brain development and language acquisition, which ultimately leads to greater academic success in school. Talk is simple yet profoundly important to your child. In the words of Harvard Researcher, Bari Walsh “Conversation drives literacy skills and cognitive development across all socioeconomic levels, regardless of parents' income or education. It's a powerful, actionable, and simple tool for all parents to use.”1

What's the big deal about talk?

In the baby and toddler years, children who are spoken to the most have shown the best results in language tests, in some cases holding a 6-month language development lead over other children.2 This added language acquisition directly affects how well children do academically as they move into their school years. University of Chicago Professor of Surgery and Pediatrics, Dana L. Suskind, says “All parents and caregivers have an inherent capacity to use their words and interactions to build their children’s brains.”3  At Somerville Public Schools, we believe parents can support their student's future academic success through more talk. Talk is also an engaging alternative to screen time. Studies have shown that screen time use among toddlers directly relates to a reduction in language development.4

Try it today!

  • Set your phone aside during your next playground visit or walk and ask your child an open-ended question like, “what interesting things can we see around us?” or “what fun things did you do today?” Try to maintain a back and forth conversation.
  • Download and print the Family Talk Conversation-Starter Game for some lively discussions with your children at dinner tonight. Give each family member a chance to draw a question and start a conversation.

Learn more!

If you have young children in Somerville, you have probably encountered our family engagement department, the Somerville Family Learning Collaborative (SFLC). SFLC staff organized this important campaign using their decades of experience with literacy and community work.

Visit www.somerville.k12.ma.us/FamilyTalk for useful materials

  • Launch some TALK with your baby, young child, or school-aged child with conversation starters from the SFLC.
  • Play the Family Talk Conversation-Starter Game at dinner tonight, available in English, Spanish, Portuguese or Haitian Creole.
  • Visit Somerville.k12.ma.us/familytalk for resources.
  • Join a literacy playgroup or family program. Visit the SFLC website to find the activity that's right for your family. The SFLC also provides literacy home visits, SomerBaby, developmental screenings and more.


1 Bari Walsh, The Brain-Changing Power of Conversation, Usable Knowledge: Connecting Research to Practice (Harvard Graduate School of Education, 2018)
2 Sample, Ian, Talking to Babies Boosts Their Brain Power, Studies Show, The Guardian (14 February 2014) 
3 Zimlich, Rachael, RN, Talk the talk: Early Language Exposure Impacts Brain Development, Contemporary Pediatrics (AAP 2017 Annual Conference) 
4 Akpan, Nsikan, Toddlers' Screen Time Linked to Slower Speech Development, Study Finds, WGBH PBS NewsHour, 4 May 2017
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